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The Second American Civil WarDaniel Johnson Salem-News.com
The Second American Civil War is not going to be North against South, but is going to be worker against worker; those have a little, against those who have less.
(CALGARY, Alberta) - It’s called whistling past the graveyard—something the majority of Americans are now doing. They think, hope, they can escape the imminent conflagration.
Prichard, Alabama is a city of 27,000 or so just north of Mobile. In 2009, its city pension fund ran out of money, right on schedule as it had been predicted for years. Against State law the City stopped paying the monthly pensions to its 150 retired workers . When the cheques stopped, the retirees tried to sue. The City responded by trying to declare bankruptcy but a judge blocked it.
The retirees are attempting to sue again, but in the meantime, the retirees are sinking into and dying in poverty. The retired fire marshal died in June 2010. He was too young to collect Social Security and, says David Anders, a retired district chief, “when they found him, he had no electricity and no running water in his house. He was a proud enough man that he wouldn’t accept help.”
This is the essence of the American mythology where people are willing to cut off their noses to spite their faces.
A week before Christmas, 2010, some of the retirees attended the City Council meeting to ask for at least some of their money. The mayor was conveniently out of town and the Council stonewalled them.
Cities, and states are crasshing into budget walls and an increasingly visible target has become the public service workers and their unions. In New Jersey about 20 percent of the work force is unionized (compared to 14% nationwide). Governor Christie has vetoed a proposed “millionaire’s tax”.
But for those who believe that government employees have it too soft, recent studies have shown that, even including benefits, public employees are compensated equivalent to or lag slightly behind private sector workers.
The Manhattan Institute, not exactly a pro-union organization, even concluded that teachers in N.J. make about the same as private sector employees who have an equivalent education.
Hamtramck, Michigan, just outside Detroit, is trying to declare bankruptcy, but the state is denying them this option, for fear that it might set off a ripple effect of further municipal bankruptcies. City Manager Bill Cooper thinks the city can “maybe” survive until March 1.
The unraveling of America has begun in earnest. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), 42 percent of American children live in low-income homes and about a fifth live in poverty.
The number of children living in poverty has increased 33% since 2000, against an increase in the actual child population of only 3%. A 2007 Unicef report on child poverty ranked the U.S. last among 24 wealthy countries.
This bodes ill for the American future as tens of millions of children will grow up to be dysfunctional adults because they have low self-esteem and are deficient in a whole range of social and educational skills.
The result will likely be a stratified class society in America similar to that of Great Britain in the 19th century under the grasping strains of workers against workers during the Industrial Revolution while the rich sat back and skimmed off the profits.
The Second American Civil War is not going to be North against South, but is going to be worker against worker; those have a little against those who have less. The ultimate scapegoats, of course, are going to be the poor—particularly the children.
The average incomes of the top 100 CEOs of the 1970s were at about 45 to 1 compared to the average wage. This ratio had risen to 1,700 to 1 by 2006. Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney, saw his annual income go from $10 million in 1984, to $203 million in 1994—equal to nearly 70% of Disney’s annual profit and a twenty-fold increase in a single decade.
The Forbe’s400 list of wealthiest Americans first appeared in 1982. There were 25 billionaires on that list. Today, they are all billionaires.
The total wealth of the 400 individuals in 2008 was $1.5 trillion, or an average of $4 billion each. Bill Gates was at the top of the list with $57 billion; bringing up the “rear” was Sanford Weill of Citigroup with only $1.3 billion. (All these individuals collectively “lost” billions after 2008, but the numbers are, or have been, restored as you read this.)
How do the ordinary people of Prichard feel about themselves, knowing what they are doing to their fellow citizens? At the same time, how much anger is directed against those men who have driven the nation into the ground?
Even companies that are profitable are compelling their unionized workers to accept two-tiered wage settlements so that new workers will make permanently less than those already hired.
In a 2003 column, conservative writer David Brooks described the growing gap in the United States between the wealthy and the poor, and the surprising lack of conflict between them saying that Americans “have always had a sense that great opportunities lie just over the horizon, in the next valley, with the next job or the next big thing. None of us are really poor; we’re just pre-rich.”
A cynical person would say that lotteries are a tax on the stupid. In the lottery of upward mobility, Americans, as a whole are among the world’s stupidest if they entertain the fantasy they, too, will one day be rich—the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. Americans have significantly better chances of being struck by lightning. It, too, is gender specific—males account for more than 80% of deaths and injuries from lightning.
I’ve said this many times before and I’ll say it again. America has been brought to its knees by taking its mythologies too literally. I remember a Jewish joke from the 1960s. A Jewish man is talking to God and asks if the Jews are, indeed, his chosen people. Told it was true he asked if God could choose someone else for awhile. On American money it says “In God we trust”. Perhaps it’s time to no longer trust this mythical god, and become self-reliant.
The most telling harbinger of America’s downfall is that rural communities in Kenya, far from that nation’s electrical grid, have basic electricity now thanks to small solar panels mounted on the roof and, wait for it--supplied by China. The American decline is accelerating.
I’m going to try to end this piece at least in the direction of optimism.
I’ve always been supporter, in principle, of government. The government, after all, is an extension of the people. The American people’s current distrust of government is well founded, but it is still an extension of themselves. They are the ones who elect the bozos (Ronald Reagan), the corrupt (Richard Nixon) and the incompetent (George W. Bush). They only have themselves to blame for the mess they are in.
I suggest that there is at least one way out of this mess—however impractical—but it means thinking in different directions. The current bunch of politicians are, for the most part, the authors of America’s disaster. What would happen, if, in the next elections, at all levels, eligibility to vote were extended only to those people who had not voted in the last election, or last two elections. The people who have been voting are the ones who selected the current three-ring circus. The ones who have not voted were, presumably, voting for “none of the above”. Just a thought.
Two-tiered union concessions
Political pathology of tax cuts
Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place
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